Sri Yellamma Renuka temple of Saundatti, KA - govt. to introduce Annadhanam and dinning hall

Sri Yellamma Renuka temple of Saundatti,KA

Almost all Hindu temples across India have a set of specific puja and temple ritual protocols and they differ  from region to region. The purpose is the same, though customs etc may vary.  Sri Yellamma Renuka temple of Saundatti  in Belagavi district, Karnataka state is a strange temple and once upon a time  it was associated with ''Devadasi system'' in this part. 

 Sri Yellamma Renuka temple of Saundatti,KA

Above image: Goddess Yellamma of Saundatti - she is an embodiment of womanhood. The  annual Yellamma Jatre festival is  about the celebration of the power of women in the form of Shakti............ 

Located about 5 km  away from the town of Saundatti in north Karnataka state is an unusual Devi temple and  that  is a center of cult followers.   Quite surprising  that it is  closely associated with the ''birth of the Devadasi system in India?”  The ancient Devadasi practice of dedicating girls to the temple  and later condemned to a life of slavery and exploitation was  banned by the government long ago - more than a century or two  and does not exist now. Still, the very mention of  this  temple carries  the sigma among a small section of  conservative people because of its past association with old Devadasi system.

 The main deity enshrined in the sanctum is Yellamma or Ellama, the goddess of fertility.  Also known as Renuka temple, it is an important tourist destination and is on top of a hill now called   "Yellamma Gudda",  named after the temple and is  part of the Sidhachal or Ramagiri hill range  overlooking the Malaprabha river, 

 Archaeological  records  point out the presence of the temple  in the  mid-8th to mid-11th centuries of the early Rashtrakuta or late Chalukyan period. The builder of this temple was   Bomappa Nayaka of Raybag (Bommappa Nayaka of Raibog)in 1514. The archaeological studies further prove the presence of Yellamma fertility cult prior to  the 11th century  and  the occurrence of megalithic black ware and historic redware (pottery dated back to 3rd BCE) suggests such possibility. 

Yet another sacred place of worship is  "Yogarbavi Satyabamma Kunda" or tank at the lower end of the hill.  Here,  devotees bathe and put on new clothes before  entering  the temple for worship.  An interesting religious custom being observed here is  "Nimmana"
and the devotees - women go round the Satyabama temple clock wise on the prathakshana path with neem leaves in their mouth. Neem leaves have proven medicinal properties. The deity Sathyabama is it is said, a form of Kali. According to the ASI gazetteer the temple had links with the mother of sage  Parasurma (Vishnu incarnate) Renuka (wife of saptarishi Jamadagni).  

No doubt, the deity  is a cult figure in north Karnataka and part of Maharashtra.  From  historical evidences, it is said, that Yellamma was a tribal deity of a food gathering nomadic community,  Devotees visiting the temple are advised to bathe in one of the sacred ponds or water tanks at the back of the temple before entering the temple for worship. As  Parasurama did his penance here this place is said to be sanctified. 'There is  a medicinal well  called  Jogal bhavi near the temple as the water contains certain properties that can cure  skin diseases. 

Countless devotees, particularly women on the temple premises smear turmeric and vermillion  powder all over their body and, according to the  priests, they do it as part of their wish to have a baby, happy family life, etc or  in fulfilment of the wish to the deity. Also parents bring their children here  covered them with neem leaves tightly tied together   as a wish for  cure of  diseases,  illness and physical and mental well being.  

 It is quite surprising that  temple of goddess Renuka Yellamma is one of the top 10 revenue earning temples in the state and the government has a plan to develop this place on the model of   Kashi Vishwanath temple. Each year the number of devotees coming to this place is on the increase, particularly  jogavvas, ardent devotees.  They visit the temple at least twice in a year. and actively participate in temple rituals for two or three days.  it is a sort of ritual offer to the deity and as part of it they  prepare food on the temple premises and collect money for their stay here.  

Normally,  the Jogavvas come  here  with their bamboo baskets stuck with neem leaves  which they use for begging, and chanted slogans about goddess. It is a custom  and every grain of food is for the god.  

Jogavvas  and other devotees  allege that the temple management under the government does not offer adequate lodge facilities to the visitors though they get donations in millions of rupees. Room rents are exorbitant, not affordable by them. 

A piece of good news from the state government is it has serious plan to introduce  ‘mahaprasadam’ .free food distribution) for devotees. Every Tues day Friday and Sunday, devotes in large numbers visit the shrine.  The official announcement was made recently last month and the devotees would welcome it.  The free food distribution has long been a pending issue. The government is expected to sanction more than Rs.23 crore for annadhanam (Mahaprasadam) project besides meeting the expenses to build a big dormitory for 3000 plus as part of free food distribution. Since a long line of people -up to 1 km will be standing for darshan, there is a proposal o improve facilities for the devotees in the line. The temple management has already spent Rs. crore for the under ground drainage system.,_Saundatti